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The "Princess Charlott", the first Steamboat on the Spree River (1816)

Following James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in the mid-eighteenth century, steam power was first put to use in maritime and river vessels in the early 1800s, roughly the same time it was first used in railway locomotives. In 1816, the “Princess Charlott” (shown below) became the first steamboat to set sail on the Spree. Steamboats were more than a novel means to transport cargo; they were also a popular attraction, a point made clear by this lithograph, which shows a group on a recreational river outing. Berlin’s Bellevue Castle is visible in the background. The prominence of military officers onboard suggests that in the early days of steam power such outings were reserved for select circles. Colored lithograph, after a drawing by Friedrich August Calau (c. 1790-1830), 1816.

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© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz